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Posts from the ‘Life The Universe and Everything.’ Category

Revisiting Being Heard

This blog has a title that dates back to an incident with my husband’s psychiatrist.  At the end of our conversation, when I thanked him for listening to me, he replied “You needed to be heard.”  His acknowledgement that this issue had to be addressed, was huge for me.  I left his office with my husband and realized that I had a title for the blog I was working on publishing. That exchange created a bridge of trust with me.  I would need that trust as the years went on.  

That one incident opened me up to a new understanding of how validation through truly hearing with the heart and mind can alter someone’s life-path. A good decade or so later our exchange still stands out in my mind.  That doc really took the time to hear, respond, and accept my truth.  

Having said all of this, I’d like to share more on this subject as it relates to another healing moment in my life.  

Something happened to me after Jon’s death that was so hurtful I had to put it on the back burner for two years. I won’t share what happened because to do so would expose several people who, to this day, think they did a really great thing. It wasn’t a great thing. In 2019 I began to address that hurtful act.  It took one year to completely resolve the issue.  It wasn’t fun, and I’m glad it’s over.  

The catch, and there always is a catch, is that I had a well of pain that was connected to people’s behavior towards me.  That wasn’t so easy to wipe out of my mind, or to repair.  The reason why is that several misguided people thought that they were helping me in my loss when they were doing great damage.  The key to the resolution was, and is, gaining enough perspective over time to be able to step back and decide how to best handle the matter.  

This is complex in that telling someone what they’ve done isn’t always the best resolution for them.  They most likely won’t view the event in the same way that you do, or have the insight to think it through.  You might come up against strong resistance when explaining how hurtful such actions are.  I tested things out with one of the parties involved.  This person couldn’t understand why I was so angry.  I realized that it was not productive to force the issue.  

The rage and pain were very much present.  What can you do in a situation like this? 

Death rearranges the address book.  In my case Jon’s death did a grand Viennese Waltz through the pages of my book.  People disappeared who I believed to be friends. Family disappeared who couldn’t cope with my new reality. It left me staring at once-full pages wondering how, and if, I could rebuild with new people in my life.  It served as a witness that grief, and the lack of comfort others have with it, brings great pains to those who must walk through the lonely terrain.  

Fortunately, I’ve begun to build a community of new friends who view life as I do. I’ve paid a steep price for these new beginnings.  It was towards this new group of people who are becoming friends, that I turned, seeking a listening ear. But, I needed more than just a listening ear: I needed to be fully heard. I found that person.  I was heard in a genuine and caring manner.  It allowed me to let go.  

Not being heard can cause someone to become stuck in the quagmire of pain, loss, anger, trauma, disappointment, and so many other things that I won’t list here.  Not being fully heard can cause us, as humans, to shut things down, to grasp so tightly to the pain in our souls that we can’t find the ladder out of the quagmire.  

Being heard, and truly hearing another person, may require that we face some painful places in our own souls while accompanying them through a darkness they want out of.  

Being heard means opening ears and stopping the responding and questioning, in order for understanding.  Being heard and hearing involve authentic empathy from the person doing the hearing.  It is a skill.  

I am by no means perfect at doing this.  Sometimes I blow it. When I realize I’ve blown the “hearing”, I go back, apologize, and work even harder at doing a better job during the next hearing.  

If you’ve been fully heard, you understand that one of the feelings that opens up for a person in this process is liberation! We are liberated from our burden, the trauma, the pain, the struggle of the choice we’re making…  We’re set free to explore new and colorful options.  Maybe we are enabled to take that first step on a road to someplace new.  This hearing might allow us to stop the repeating “sound byte blasting” in our heads about what we could, or should, have done.  

Being heard in its entirety is a gift. It is one that we unwrap with joy, understanding that it is not as common as it should be.  It frees our spirits calling us forward to new ground.  It opens us to new relationships of understanding and trust.  When we engage in the power of complete hearing, it changes us because our views and hearts are altered. We can no longer choose to unhear or not see what we’ve become a witness to.  Each time a person is truly heard, it changes the world.   

Minor stroke of….

*this happened in 2014. The similarities between a minor stroke and grief are mind blowing.

October third was a glorious and warm fall day. Jon and I were visiting friends. The drive south was warm and sunny and we were having a great conversation. The visit was great and we were now headed home for a nice long weekend. We were in Utrecht stuck in traffic and I was getting tired. I put my head down. “We need to leave for home earlier.” Once again rush hour.
Pulling into Huizen, we decided to run to the store for butter and I stayed in the car because I was just so tired. It was then that I lost all strength in my neck. I couldn’t keep my neck up! Weird as it was, I ignored it. Jon helped me into the house and I just sat on the sofa. He made dinner and we watched television.
It was after a bit of whatever-it-was-we-were-watching that we took a pause and he noticed me. I felt terrible and my right leg and left arm felt funny. He said that my face looked like it was drooping. We called the after-hours doctors. They sent a doctor out. I knew then that something was really wrong. I knew then that I was headed to, as Jon and I call it, the “big house.” Yet another medical adventure was underway.
After the doctor took a look and got my history, he phoned Utrecht UMC. It was determined that I would go there as my records were there and they knew about my situation.
The best way to describe what happened to me is that I felt detached from my world and my body was not in my control. I felt suspended in space and at the same time, as if I was a heavy, limp, weight that had to be helped to do things. My right leg felt like it was suspended in mid-air. I would later be able to state that I felt as if my leg was drunk.
Ambulances are weird spaces. They can be disorienting and scary. Instinctively I knew I was having a stroke but I didn’t want to verbalize it. That was too terrible a concept to utter. At the time I just wanted Jon to be with me and it seemed like it took him forever to get there. As usual, there had been a car accident so the doctor was off with somebody else.
Finally at 2:00am, I sent Jon home. They’d be coming for me to admit me and he needed rest. As it turned out I won the hospital lotto that night and was wheeled into a private room. Now that was luck! Peace was to be mine in the days that followed as the health crisis unfolded. It had only begun on that Friday evening.
Before admitting me they had done a CT scan, but not an MRI: That would be done Monday. CT scans don’t show everything and this one was no exception.
I had lots of symptoms that didn’t seem to last, or make sense. Mid-Sunday my right leg felt paralyzed. As I lay there wondering what was coming next, I thought, “what if my lungs shut down? What if I can’t breathe?” Oh, what if I die in this room all alone?” Now that got me thinking. Being alone in this situation was scary. I would later beg a nurse not to leave me in the middle of the night. He was great and stayed until I calmed down.
By this time in the process I needed assistance in getting around. It was not fun and certainly somewhat embarrassing, but you do what you have to do to keep what dignity you can. My speech was also being affected in strange ways. It was different from what had happened at the end of June. This time the left side of my face felt like it had puffed up and my tongue felt as if it had puffed up and I was speaking weird. I was now scared. The nurses just watched.
Throughout the entire process they kept asking me to rate the pain. The rating was never higher than an eight. I’ve suffered worse pain with a pancreatitis attack! They kept asking and I kept telling them where things stood.
Monday came and I wound up getting an MRI. Then it was time to wait. And wait I did.
Jon came and it felt safe. Then the three doctors came in. There were no smiles. “This isn’t good news”, I thought. I heard the word “stroke” and then I was swirling in words. The whole thing sounded like the voice of the teacher in “Charlie Brown.” I just faded in and out and thought, “what have I lost?” I was sure that my right leg and left arm were damaged. “Anything else?”, I thought as I lay there taking an inventory.
I wanted to scream “STOP” so I can process this. STOP, you are going way too fast. I’m falling behind. Jon was now upset and asking why they had not done the MRI sooner? Why had they not seen the stroke on Friday? We thought I had not had a stroke because of the CT scan. Yet in my gut I knew I had been involved in having a stroke. I’d just had the weekend to believe otherwise. Why had I deluded myself?
Now, I had to tell my family what the real situation was. I knew this would disturb my mother: It did. She was already thinking that I’d die. Thousands of miles away, she wasn’t taking it well. I only found that out when I spoke to my sister.
The friends we’d visited on Friday had contacted Jon and to see how I was. Upon finding out now that I’d suffered a stroke, they drove up to the UMC to be there and offer support.
The nice thing about private rooms is that nursing staff will let you violate the rules with visitors. They stayed until nearly 10:00 PM. Then they left, and Jon followed shortly after. I was now alone. I had to now make a choice about medication. That seemed to be one thing I remembered in the earlier conversation.
The last thing I wanted to deal with at this point in time was vision loss. I had to decide if I was willing to risk just that. Do I want to risk going blind and still be functional? I knew it could happen. It was a chance I had to take. I had to risk taking a drug that would save my body from another stroke but could wipe out the remaining 12% of my sight. I spent Tuesday agonizing over the choice knowing that I had to accept the pill or whatever-it-was I was in for. I was still symptomatic and Wednesday it was decided for me. I drank the powder that would be a daily routine until forever.
Wednesday also brought with it a friend who knew of a great rehab center that was 15 minutes from home. I am so thankful that Marion knew of where I could go for the needed rehab. Sometimes you get lucky with the right information when you least expect it. I feel very fortunate that way. Well, I might not have had a say in medication usage, but I did get to have a say in where the rehab was to be done. I was learning that I had to take what positives were handed to me and accept them. The anger at the negatives would come in time and all too soon.
I got lucky in that there has been no major damage. You never get well from a stroke. You can recover a certain amount of usage and strength. You can learn to manage energy wisely and move on. But, you don’t get well. That will never happen and believing that you will get well is a myth. So, I’ve entered the recovery and learning phase of post minor stroke in my life.
I have shed tears, felt despair and emptiness, and at times feel like I’m a burden to Jon. He is listening and offering support. I know this isn’t easy on him either. It is a balancing act of allowing him bad days as well.
I appreciate that friends and family want to send kind thoughts and prayers. I think that is more of a comfort to them because somehow they feel as if they are helping. It is nice to be thought of in that way when I am so far from you. What I need is help and at this point that means phone calls and visits as well as a meal so that Jon doesn’t have to shoulder it all by himself.
I just folded some laundry and I’m wiped out. You don’t know how much energy you consume until you don’t have it to put out. In the past few weeks my life has changed. I know it will change more. Some things will be good and others won’t be so easy. I got lucky; it could have been so much worse, and for that I’m thankful. I will recover all I can. I will build strength up in as many ways as I can. I have begun the fight in simple ways. This is something I know how to do: the inner warrior is back. I’m ready to fight for everything I can recover.

Today I’m thankful for Science

*** This was written in 2015 Putting it up now seemed right.

Today I’m thankful for Science. I am glad that I am breathing, and functional, and that I get to go to physical therapy. I am glad that during this coming week I’ll begin the process of strengthening my arm and my leg. I’m glad that there are people who understand what it is all about.
I’m thankful that there are doctors, and others, that took the time to sit in classrooms and labs, and learn about what is going on in my brain. I’m thankful that they had the curiosity to study and learn. I’m glad that there were people who went before who allowed interns and residents to work and study on them so that they could get an education.
I think back to my days as an intern in grad school and my post grad work. I’m thankful for clients who let me learn via the process of working with them.
Next week on the 27th of November there is a day of gratitude that is celebrated in the U.S. For those who are U.S. citizens; What will you give thanks for? What is your life all about? Who has made your life better this year? Who do you owe a great thank-you to?
Once again I will thank my sister for the trip to the U.S. I will thank her kids for helping it to be a success. I am thankful for the fact that I was able to spend three weeks with my mother. I’m thankful that I got that time because I don’t know if I’ll have that ever again. (Thanks for the bash!!!)
I am thankful for friends. I wish I could see more of you but you are there and I’m here and our hearts are together.
Sometimes we get so caught up in the complex that we forget the very simple. I am writing a simple post because I want to remind you of the many things you have.
You have the ability to move your hands, to walk to the mailbox and see the sun. You can open the box or click with the mouse. Somewhere you know someone who CAN’T. During the next year pledge to extend to them a service they need. Pick up the phone and call them more often.
Gratitude is a two-way street. We need to take the time to be thankful for the stuff we have. We need to create things for others to be thankful for. It is about giving and receiving.
It is raining and cold outside and I’m inside where it is toasty and warm. Penelope just popped by to say hello and stick her tongue out at me. I look up and see my back-lit parasols that Jon put up here in my work space. I owe him a great debt of gratitude for the last five weeks. He has cooked and cleaned and comforted me when I’ve been sad and blue. I cannot repay this but I can give a thankful heart and a very public mention.
On Tuesday I will have my first physical therapy session and I hope I get pushed to the max. I will also have my first Ergo therapy session and that too will be a challenge. I can’t wait!!!!

When

Mommy, are we there yet? The woman in the front seat of the car is fighting the urge to turn around and duct-tape her child’s mouth shut,
permanently. This phenomenon has happened on every long journey since time immemorial. Then the mother has this flash in her mind that carries her back to the beginning of time and particles smashing together. Maybe it even happened with the sludge of the universe as the Big Bang occurred. Imagine two atoms: “Are we there yet? Are we done yet? Can we get on with the Paleozoic Era? But, duct-taping them would have caused a disaster. She smiles to herself instead and continues to focus on the road ahead.
Maybe in the Grand Scheme of the Cosmos, delayed gratification is one of the great laws. The Universe took the time it needed to come to its present state. That can teach us something. The Universe was formed with only what it had on hand from the first moment all things slammed together and all things followed in order. No credit here. It waited. The Universe used its resources where it needed them, when it was ready for each new phase.
Let’s face it: Putting pleasurable stuff off is a drag, but a necessary drag. Delayed gratification is about learning to respect the journey. Delaying gratification is about knowing that you can never have it all, instantly. Delaying gratification is about learning to work for what you want. Waiting for the good stuff until you can get it in a healthy fashion.
But, isn’t that a myth? You well remember that last flick that showed someone having it All. The big house, expensive car, fashionable wardrobe, fulfilling job, loving family and friends – and let’s not forget – physical beauty. But, it rarely comes instantly. Real success, like the universe we live in, is painstakingly forged one item at a time. Yet, today, there are those who can’t wait. Saving is a thing of the past. Sorting out needs from wants is becoming blurred.
Remember childhood with its lazy times of fun and exploration? If you are old enough to have been raised during a time when play was really creative and done outdoors, books were a passage into another world, and not instantly made into movies, and TV was something that you watched for very few hours weekly, then you are one of those who have learned a valued lesson: doing fun things takes planning and time.
It is also highly probable that chores and learning to work were a natural part of your life. You had to save for what you purchased. I remember going to the store to purchase some shoes I’d saved for. For weeks I walked by that store window and looked at those sling backs. Getting them made me feel “adult” and responsible. I earned those shoes. I wore them out proudly, had them repaired, and continued to wear them out.
For each of us the lesson is different: Anticipation is a good thing. Anticipation makes the gift we are receiving more intriguing, the new dress more exciting, and the new car that you saved up for, more valuable. Anticipation gives a deeper meaning to most things we have and desire. There is a type of magic to working for something. Keeping it becomes valuable to you because to discard it when it still works, means that you are discarding your hard work. Tossing it out just to get the latest thing, can be an issue.
As I think of all the technology that has evolved since I was a kid, I remember that sunny, July day when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched down on the moon and life as we then knew it was altered. The moment was electric. Now it seems that much of the “electric” has gone out of innovation and progress. Progress is a constant in an advanced society. More and more, having it all instantly, is a must. Trading up for the latest in tech when the old is still of value, is common. To suggest that you keep what you have might be heresy. It is about having the latest and dumping the old. There is a rush on to have it all NOW with no waiting period.
We now have smartphones, smart drugs and smarter cars, and yet we have not become any smarter ourselves. While results are faster, we as humans are still finite. We live through our technology. We live, thinking and feeling as if all answers must come fast, as if deeper thought should somehow be instant. We want that insight NOW rather than being willing to let life teach us. We might even become impatient when our first few searches on Google fail to turn up what we need. Searching shouldn’t take us so much time. Why can’t we get it faster? Well, searching on Google is hard work, that’s why. Finding the correct answer does take some deeper looking and heavier reading. In the process you might conclude that there is not a perfect, or good enough, answer to your search and that maybe it DOESN’T exist out there in Cyberspace.
Remember when science was supposed to save us? Remember when the Peace Movement was the answer to conflict? Remember when autonomy was the answer to authority? I think we need to re-read “The Glory and The Dream” by William Raymond Manchester.
Maybe we as a world need duct tape on our gratification instincts. Okay, that is an eensy, weensy, bit extreme. Or is it?
I have taken up baking. It is wonderful to create something that comes out of the oven and is warm and yummy. The fact is that baking demands that you wait. There is a proper time when eating will bring the desired pleasures of good food. Just think of something you love melting in your mouth and your brain will light up in anticipation. Your mouth might begin to prepare for the pleasure as you read this. BUT, you have to work to make it, so you had better make lots of it to enjoy!!!! Yikes!! I want to eat those scones I plan to bake for Saturday, but I want them right now!!!
The whole idea for this commentary came from a conversation I had with someone about the guide dog I’m working on getting. I’ve been in this process since 2010. At this point, I just want to move on. I’ve had to think about if I’m ready, or even wanting, to move forward, because I can’t wait. Like the universe, I have had to work with raw thoughts. I’ve had to shape and train them. Crossing the street in safer places has become a must. Thinking about HOW I’ll do it and memorizing routes takes time. Learning the train stations and bus stations has been fun, but I’m glad I’m past that.
I’ve had to reevaluate my established walking routes, my future needs, and the needs of our cat, Penelope, who will have to welcome a dog into the house. Getting this dog is life-changing and making the correct choice at the right time is important for our family.
I’ve spent 15 months in Apeldoorn learning what things that I’ve needed, and lacked. As I’ve learned in Apeldoorn, I was also able to observe others with dogs. My process is of more value because of all of this. While I don’t want to rush things, I feel the time has come to move things along. It isn’t about “when” but rather about the process and how secure I feel with it.
Childhood is all about “getting there”. Young adulthood seems to be moving in the direction of attempting to get it as fast as possible and show it off. Eventually there comes a time in life when you reach “wisdom” or the point when you that accept you never will fully have everything you think you need, but that you can have the “needful things”. The journey is what it is all about. Saving up for the good stuff is where the greatest reward lies. Understanding our real needs and allowing ourselves to have wants that might become realities, brings peace through expectation.
“Mommy, are we EVER going to get there?” “Yes honey, count the green and red cars and tell me how many you can find.” I’ll be content to count the red and green cars until the doggie enters my life. I hope it is sooner than later because I feel better about “it” coming into my life now.

****The dog turned out to be a No-go.

Seasons

The air was crisp and the trees were colorful. I was happy because my favorite season of the year was present. Autumn was present in every form including the warm colors of clothing that I loved so much.
For me autumn is what I like best about the year. The northern California Indian-Summer days, the crispy feel that you get when you are out and about is wonderful. As a child going back to school – which I didn’t like because I had to stop reading what I wanted – was only tolerable because it meant AUTUMN was in the air. For me the world was then, and is now, perfect in the Autumn.
As you age, the seasons melt into the cycles of time. The playfulness of life and a budding Spring and its excitement, gives way to the learning of Summer. Oh, and Summer is filled with exploration and the joys and perils of adventure! The challenges and joys of learning on your own, as you discover that the lessons of young childhood, and early adulthood, must become a basis for your fast-but-seemingly-slow approaching full onset of adulthood. There might be some true “yikes” moments during Summer. Those “yikes” moments; when you catch yourself about to make a life decision that is better re-thought. That can be a good thing. “Yikes” means that you are aware of what is going on!!!!
Summer brings discovery of your real “self” emerging into view. Summer also brings a desire to have it all. You don’t want to see it end. You want to play hard and never see the sun go down. Summer brings a growth that you learn from trial and error. The lessons of Spring and the early Summer, remain with you as you feel the time now fast approaching when Autumn is on the way.
If you’ve had those yikes-type moments and taken the time to repair what needed fixing, you are in good shape now.
Autumn is the season of wisdom. Autumn is the time when the lessons of a young Spring and Summer are played out. Autumn is a time of realization, regrets, new focuses in life, and a time of hopes, as well as sorrows. Before Autumn ends, and the onslaught of winter comes with its powerful resolution to destroy all that you hold dear, you must navigate through the Autumn.
Autumn is, in a sense, “karma collection” or payback. Realizing that I could have made better choices has only come because I made the not-so-good-choices. I took risks in life. The thing about Autumn is that you can’t turn back. But, you can’t avoid it, because everything we do in life has a price attached. You must adapt, accept, let the leaves of autumn fall, and move on.
Autumn still offers me time to change, to learn, and to grow. I love Autumn! Raking up Autumn’s leaves is important, and like a child who jumps in the pile of leaves, (you know the one you are told NOT to jump in) it can be exhilarating. I like to inventory the leaves and really see what is there. I learn from this inventory and that is always good. I love the process of change even though, at times, change is an unwanted aspect of life. Getting through the trials of change still brings me hope. I am better for it.
As I now reflect on my Spring, and the innocence in which I lived it, I’m amazed I did as well as I did. I look at my life and realize that it has had its challenges. Challenge is what it’s about. I’m not always thankful for that which has kicked me from behind or punched me in the front. But, I can honestly say that I’ve knocked down the walls that have sprung up in my path. Tearful days and nights have made me stronger and wiser when it comes to life. It is the mistakes that make you think about the new stuff in a self-confrontational manner.
If my Spring was innocent, my Summer was an adventure in learning. By being able to make both good and bad choices, and dealing with the consequences of those choices, I grew. Summer is a time when the life bank account is in “deposit mode” and what you put in will, in the future, be withdrawn. You will have to pay for your Summer. Some payments will work well, and others will hurt like having a tooth pulled without the Novocain. Life is like that, and you can’t turn from it. Sooner, or later, the crispy days of Autumn roll around and you enter that time when all accounts begin to go into “withdrawal mode.”
I am amazed when I hear someone saying that they really haven’t had any challenging stuff happen in life. I wonder to myself what they haven’t been doing. The fact is, life is a series of challenges. Making mistakes is a good thing because it can mean that you are engaged in the life-process. Learning from your mistakes means that you are progressing and committed to doing better as you move through life. Autumn is that time of the year that one can reflect.
I’ve come to the serious conclusion that few are blessed with all the wisdom they need to make life decisions at 20 or even 25 years old, and yet that is what is demanded of the young. I hear of more and more adults in their 40’s or 50’s who embrace the unknown for what they really want to do. They are happier for it. Autumn is a time to rethink, take a risk, and to change the course of life. “If only I knew” becomes, “Why not?”
Autumn is when you realize that “it isn’t too late or hopeless.” Grab the brass ring and do it!!!
Healing from the Springs and Summers of life makes everything more valuable. Reflection during our Autumns causes us to sober up, to appreciate our youth for what it was, and to anticipate for the future what we can create as vibrant adults. Whether we’ve done it well enough in the past, or are choosing to do it well at this point in life: Autumn is that time of life.
I’ve learned via observation, that those who seem more at peace during their Winters are those who have challenged themselves during their Autumns. They are actively enjoying the lives they’ve built and face, with dignity, the storms that life will still produce. I will always cherish what each Autumn brings to me.
As I look out my window and notice the sun’s changing position, and feel the lowering temperature, I know that once again my favorite season is coming on. Autumn with its crisp days and warmer colors is just around the corner. I can’t wait.

The Gift of Being Heard

I’ve spent many hours “listening to and being listened to.” I’ve communicated, at least on some superficial level, what I meant to say. I pause to listen, to tune in, but in my haste, I fail to hear the real sound that I am in need of hearing. I listen, but fail to hear.
You can learn “listening skills” which will, if you practice them, enable you to not “spring” too soon. You can learn to clarify what is being said and the person on the other end of the conversation may come away feeling as if they communicated successfully.
We listen inquisitively, we listen out of curiosity, we listen in hopes that if we do so it will somehow all be over and we can say that “I listened to you. What more do you want from me?” We listen with resentment and fear. We don’t really want to know. We listen passively. We practice “active listening.” We justify all of this as doing a good bit of what we perceive listening and hearing to be.
At the end of the person’s sharing “they” may be frustrated by the lack of listening we displayed. Maybe they are right. Maybe we blew it all off, tuned ourselves out. Maybe we did a “good enough” job of listening, but it wasn’t good enough. Maybe we got lucky. Maybe they leave feeling a bit better for having spent the time in conversation. They might feel any of the above listed items or they might feel something else and we might not be given the chance to find out just how we did during that conversation. There are times when we only get one shot at listening and turning it into truly hearing what the other person is telling us.
Each conversation is a one shot deal. It is my observation that for most of us, that we spend time listening, but not hearing. Hearing is an art and most of the time we fail to do it very well. Hearing is acknowledging what is left unsaid as well as the spoken portion. Hearing is seeing and feeling the richness of the soul. Hearing can be like unwrapping a gift box.
There are no courses for hearing. There are only times in our lives when we are the person who hears in fullness and the person that is fully heard. These are the times that we remember most. To fully hear and be heard: “to grock it.” (“Stranger in a Strange Land” Robert A. Heinlein) This knowing is what hearing and being heard is all about: to have a fullness of understanding and to view the “gestalt” or the picture in its entirety.
Recalling the conversation that sparked this blog title isn’t essential. The last comment however was the true gift: the gift that told me that for a brief moment in time I mattered to this person. “You needed to be heard.” Those words became significant. That one sentence caused my soul to change. I had been given the gift of being heard and I knew it.
Hearing it physically.
Music is a major part of my life. I listen, I sing, and yet I don’t hear all of its richness due to a hearing loss. I can hear harmonies, but not the richness that is present. I miss what the composer intended me to hear. If I use headphones I can hear more, but not all of the richness that is present. Headphones can be a pain. I have an, I need to use them/wish I didn’t need to use them, relationship with my “Plantronics.” To hear the rich and fuller sounds of the music I must wear them. I must use them when I Skype. I must be tuned into the other person.
Recently I decided that I needed to revisit the hearing instrument market. I had worn one such gadget during the mid 80’s to the late 90’s. The gadget was big and not very effective. When I moved to Germany I stopped wearing it. I would live without hearing because it felt better to not have that gargantuan thing in my right ear. I would also be rid of the background noises that were not wanted. Hearing was not pleasant.
Life changed and I needed to see if I could introduce a better quality of hearing pleasure into my daily experience. I found a center that does thorough screening for hearing loss and took that information to the techie who would do the actual work of finding the proper gadget for my sorry state of being. I didn’t feel very hopeful. My past experience was foremost in my mind.
The next week something wonderful happened: I heard a conversation and didn’t have to ask the person to repeat what was said. This was novel!!!! There were no raised voices. The experience was beautiful. Listening was effortless. I could once again hear the world around me.
I began to explore and found that I could have background music on and still hear!!!! I could listen as our three cats munched down their meals. Cats are noisy when they munch. I could listen to the sound of the water which had always seemed so quiet. Once the initial adjustment to hearing old sounds in new ways passed, I was happy. I was excited about having something else switched on. That switch was triggered a week later.
That next Monday my music listening program went live. I heard music in a new way. I was ecstatic. I could hear notes that had gone missing!!! The guy told me about some technology that would enhance my hearing experience to even greater heights. I had him order the “Mini Tek” NOW I WAS EXCITED. Oh, to hear the world in ways it was meant to be heard!
This gadget, Mini Tek, enables the user to have the sound transmitted directly to the hearing instrument. I would have a clear stream of beautiful noise!!!! I would be tuned in precisely!!!! I would hear my phone conversations while out and about and not have to ask the speaker to repeat themselves. Life was getting to be a bit of heaven on earth…UNTIL I found out that the insurance, which was paying for thousands of Euros of hearing pleasure, would not cover this 300 Euros of enhancement technology and I was faced with having to return the box that I had only hours before opened so excitedly.
Returning that box to the Beter Horen (We’re now in Holland) was one of the most depressing days of my life. I asked my husband, Jon, to do it because I was too depressed, too sick in my heart of hearts, to take it back. So, for now the gift of really hearing music and out of the house phone conversations is not happening. For now it is hard but not AS hard to hear. But, this is just about physical hearing and not about the needful hearing.
The gift box.
Fortunately for the true hearing of the soul I don’t need a hearing instrument. I don’t need a “Mini Tek”; I need an open heart that is tuned to the correct frequency of another’s heart. The transmission will be clear. I will be shown what I am meant to see and hear. That is what the gift of being heard is all about.
The gift of being heard is about feeling the soul. We must not only hear the words of the heart, but we must see the landscape of the soul. Only with both true hearing and clear vision can we understand and grant the gift. Only then can we hope to understand the rich soul-scape that awaits us. Only then will we rejoice and be thankful that we unwrapped and shared the gift of being heard.

The Kitty Story

For the past 21 years there have been cats in my life. The first cat was Phred. Phred came with my current husband, so I got to know both of them before we married. Phred was wise, good, and a mighty hunter. Phred was an amazing boy who could sit in porcelain kitty pose on the window box and just be the most precious welcoming cat in the universe. This doesn’t describe him perfectly, but it is a start. For me, Phred was my son. Yes, a child. The one outstanding thing I must mention is his addiction to fishy flavored flakes. IF we let him have some of those things he would go on a hunger fast and demand MORE. Never feed a cat something they can become addicted to!

Next came the princess and her name was ‘Roo, as in Kangaroo, due to her early kitty behavior. ‘Roo, like Phred, lived on two continents, but had the distinction of living in three countries. The Princess was an international kitty. ‘Roo had the most amazing quality of not only being beautiful on the outside but glowing from within. Quite frankly, I’ve never met another cat that I could say that about. ‘Roo had so many good qualities and like Phred, had a nice furry life.

When Phred departed in April of 1999, we decided to wait to see what happened before we became kitty parents yet again.

Barney came to us as a farm cat. He just wandered into our tiny house on the mountain and made friends with ‘Roo and by the end of the fall of 1999 we asked our landlord if we could take him in permanently. I’m glad we did. 

Barney moved with us from Southern Germany to Eastern Netherlands. We lived in an upstairs flat. There was a landing that had a narrow banister. Barney could hold his ground in that space…even when the fierce wind was present. He scared us when he did it. We could imagine him blowing away. Barney was stronger than any kitty we’ve known. Hubby and I would have to restrain him if medication was needed and we lost more than one battle with him. Barney was also very territorial: squirting up a storm in my new blue kitchen. He almost lost his life several times…cuteness saved him.

Barney loved yogurt and had a “yogurt voice” I think he had a sixth sense for when the stuff was to be served. His little furry life was cut short due to heat stroke during the heat wave of 2003. We were devastated. It was then that I said “I don’t think I can do this again. My heart is being pulled and my feelings for our kitty children are so strong.” I was learning something powerful about what our cats could be in our lives.

‘Roo and Barney had been true friends. They would adventure together; causing us to wake in the middle of the night as they ran from one end of the house to the other. Barney became the defender of the territory and ‘Roo, while older, let him do so. She kept dominance in a laughable manner and when she disciplined The Boy for crossing her, it was more comical relief than anything else. Barney got the message and fell into line as a good Submissive should. I remember the first night ‘Roo had without Barney. A cat entered our yard as if to take up the place, all holy hell broke out. We looked out to see our princess running the little twerp off of HER land. She still had it out there. ‘Roo held the dominant place her entire life but you would have never guessed it at first glance. Her sweet and gentle personality was misleading.

Cats are just like children. When you get to know them you discover a treasure chest of delightful happiness. Taking time to share in their little lives is the real gift. And now back to the narrative..

Hubby and I let ‘Roo do her thing for several months. I wasn’t ready for a new cat. Barney’s death was so unexpected and my heart was being pulled into new forms of growth.

At the end of 2003 I began to talk about getting a Russian Blue. I had always wanted a Blue. We started to research them in more detail. I also knew a couple with a Blue and knew her to be skittish. This would not do in a cat. It was then that we stumbled on to the Britt. This was it!!!! During the holiday season we connected with breeders. The wait was shorter than I had planned for and I wasn’t certain if I was ready to “mommie another kitty”, yet. 

We met Penelope and her sister, Tweety, on a cold January day in 2004 and we both fell in love instantly. What was not to love? Penelope was perfect: designed just for me.

‘Roo had had periods in her little furry life where she had been alone, but had matured and gained a sense of self. She was confident and ready to share her life. This was a healthy choice for ‘Roo.

When we carried Penelope home with us for her first night away from her sister, we were concerned about how she and ‘Roo would accept each other. We isolated Penelope and she cried. By midnight ‘Roo was upset and wanting to help, so we decided that we’d try it another way. We let ‘Roo into Penelopes’ space. They bonded instantly. ‘Roo mothered the child and Penelope grew into a sweet, beautiful, kitty daughter. All was well! My days were filled with loving our two kitty-daughters and life was happy with them. Both were adorable and wonderful to have.

Just as bringing a child into the world should take two agreed upon votes, so should bringing a kitty-child into the home. We had talked about a third kitty and finally being in agreement, it was time for action.

Hubby was smitten by Tweety, Penelopes’ sister, I called the breeder to let her know that when Tweety got pregnant, if there was a blue and white male, we wanted him. “Funny you should call…” was the reply “because she is giving birth tonight.” And in the morning the call came: JRA Bob had arrived. And it was a good thing I had called because several others were also interested in Bob. We felt blessed that he would come to our home.

That year for Christmas I gifted JRA Bob to my husband.

Now, we do know that Bob had already eaten

through some hot computer cable. He tore up some curtains. He was a general trouble-maker as a wee kitty. He was the ring leader who looked as innocent as could be, but there was always something brewing inside. And, this was while he was still with his mother!!!!! To this day, we are certain there was some brain damage: He never quite managed to grow up.

When we carried Bob home, we decided to let the boy out and allow the introductions to come naturally. There would be no isolating Bob. This time all holy hell broke out!!!! We thought Penelope would kill him. This was not good at all. Long story short, we put Penelope on Prozac. ‘Roo, while irritated at times, was for the most part, fine with the newbie.

Bob was the craziest, most curious and all around cat-like kitty to be had. There was never a dull moment with Bob. My kitty mommie hands were full!

When they were passing out kitty personalities we figure Bob kept returning for yet another and another and the conversation had to have sounded something like this:

Bob: I want more personality.

Giver: We already gave you a personality and that is all you get. Now go away!!!

Bob: But this isn’t enough. I can’t be as happy, bouncy, lively, and beaming as I’m meant to be. I need more personality and I just know I’ll burst out if I don’t have enough. I need so much MORE!!!! Please?

Giver: Ok JRA Bob.

Bob was right. Bob was loaded with love and affection beyond belief, and Bob was Gorgeous. “Beautiful”, in my mind, just doesn’t do him justice. Bob was the most beautiful of all of our cats and therefore he must have a different adjective. (I know males aren’t supposed to be gorgeous) But, he was and will always be our most gorgeous of kitties.

We were forced to say our goodbyes to Bob in the last week of April of 2013. It was a sunny day and a day that was meant for Bob to be outside in the world. And we took him out, as we had done as part of our saying goodbye ritual for Phred. Keeping him any longer would have been cruel. We miss him so much. There is a huge emptiness here that will never be replaced by another kitty. Bob was unique in the Cosmos. I like to imagine a grand meadow where he can play and be with our other kitties. It’s a nice thought.

As I write this, Penelope has gone through many phases of progression after Bob. First, Penelope was alone and bored. She too missed the pest. (Her thoughts, not ours) She faced being alone for the first time in her little furry life.

We hoped that she would discover a new self and become a new Cat. Penelope is a Cats’ cat. She is independent and does it all on her terms. She too is beautiful and sweet, and learned to become secure in her new environment.

She has shown us that she really needed to be an only kitty for a while. We have enjoyed her and hope to have many more years with her.

Our kitty tapestry has been filled with the rich warmth of individual cats who we will always cherish and from whom we have learned so many lessons about life. Twenty-one years ago I did not understand the power that an animal could have to shape a human life and color it in beautiful ways. Each loss is real.

So goes the cycle of life and death. It enters snatching souls of all types: human and animal. Those we love pass on and we are faced with the loneliness of not having them on a daily basis. Time and soul-searching can heal many things, but you can never go back.

I move forward and can only resolve to make the best kitty life possible for Penelope. 

In thinking about all of this, I must admit I believe that there is a time and a season for all to end as we know it. I believe that each of us creates a future based on possibility.

Because we knew that Bob was destined to live an un-naturally short life I created a mosaic of him that hangs where we can see him and be reminded of just how beamie he was.

I began this piece in 2013. I thought it had a different focus. I kept it in my draft section not knowing what to do with it. I can now publish it because I know the ending. It has to do with mental health issues.

More and more we as human beings are discovering the power of unconditional love with our pots. We are finding that they are sensitive to many powerful emotions we, as humans, display. I’ve seen this with Penelope. If I’m really feeling sick she will come and be my protector. 

I’ve seen this phenomenon with someone else in my life: Because of her dog, she is more engaged in daily life. While her depression is still present, she has a sweet loving dog to help her calm herself.

Remember George? He has been affected by animals as well. I believe that it really does help his depression.

So, telling you about my kitties and who they are, is a plug to remind you that cats and dogs can reach into souls that might not be reached with words.

Therapy for those who struggle with whatever-it-is-they-struggle-with can be made easier with an animal by your side.

Tonight Penelope will grace us with her presence and I hope that she will desire to snuggle up with me. I love her and the joy she brings to all who know her.

The Meaning of Enough

How many of us think about what we could do with more money? How many of us understand it’s true value? Whether we squander, or spend lavishly, everyone gives thought to having more stuff that makes it possible to live.

The fact is that having a sufficient amount of funds for meeting life’s needs can provide each of us with the feeling of being safe and secure. Having a surplus of funds can provide us with more options. The more wise options each of us has, the more choices we can makeup free us up to pursue better solutions for the challenges we face in life.

I’ve come to re-think how I feel about the paper we call money. I now think in terms of options, rather than wealth. What options do I need to provide a good life? What are the consequences of having any of these particular options? What is the meaning of having enough? It wasn’t always this way. My thoughts and feelings about money has been an on-going journey.

I’ve learned a lot from living and working. The process of returning to work as a self-employed therapist has caused me to ask myself about money, what do I need to provide for my family, and what would I like to do with the money I earn? So, what are my needs, the needs of my family, and the needs of my business?

One of the most important values I have is that of being able to assist others less fortunate than myself. This can only happen when the needs of my family are sufficiently met. It means having enough for not only our family’s needs, but having enough to fulfill a dream, or two. Having enough is about being realistic and feeling good about the things you have. So for me, it means being able to give back.

So in practical terms what is enough? Being able to buy what I want at the grocery store. Providing new clothing for my family when they need new things to wear is also important to me. Saving for retirement and taking a vacation to relax and return to work refreshed. After that, it means being able to save and give assistance by offering to buy groceries or replace someone’s worn shoes. It means doing good things for others. It means giving someone who is starting out in business my support. It means that I want to do nice things for my husband without him knowing about them.

Having enough also means that you don’t waste what you have. There is something about meeting your needs and not over-consuming, that is just good for the world we live in. When you live within your means and use only what you need, you have less trash, less stuff to store, and less cleaning to do. I’m not professing to be a minimalist because I’m not such a person. But, since our family has cut back on consumables, our trash isn’t as full and our house is less burdened with excess.

I will confess to wanting more kitchen space so that I can buy some cool kitchen gadgets. We like cool gadgets and we like to cook. So, it also follows that we like to eat good food. It is all about determining what “enough is” and living that way in a realistic and calm manner.

One of the things I’ve learned from living here in Europe is that Europeans like nice stuff. They have less stuff but what they own, is nice. Most people here don’t go into debt: They pay cash for what they own. Most will have enough to retire on and are satisfied. Being here in The Netherlands has taught me to rethink my thinking. It has been a lesson worth experiencing and learning.

As I think about who I am now, versus who I was when I came to Europe to live, I can see how being here has affected me in a positive manner. It has changed me for the better and it has taught me valuable lessons that I could not have learned by remaining in the U.S.

Insight is a great gift that each of us can provide to ourselves.  Insight comes when you look in the mirror and notice that the face staring back at you has taught you a valuable lesson, and one that you would not trade because you are better off for knowing. Insight can heal the pain that comes from making lousy decisions. Insight is like a plate of your favorite comfort food. When you have it you want to enjoy it and you want more of it.

As I move on with life, having enough for our family’s needs, is good enough. Evaluating what enough is was a challenge that has brought me inner peace. Understanding what enough is, frees me to do what I need to do in my life. Having enough means that you can live your life and not chase a false dream.

Sneakiness is Happiness

Today has been very hot. I like the heat because it means that the sun is out and the sky is blue. The only bad thing about the heat is that sticky, humid feeling. Today I had to be out in the heat and it was wonderful!!!!

Why? Well, it was because of all the nice things that happened while I was out and about and doing the many things that I had to get done. I was out alone with Myrtle Mae. Myrtle Mae is a good side-kick. “She” keeps me safe from others. I’ve also noticed that people are really nice to me when I’m buzzing around with my stick. (Myrtle Mae is featured in Stick Magic.)

There are so many things that are different about being a person with low vision. Some things are just more complicated and time-consuming than they are for a fully-sighted soul. People being nice to me made me feel OK about walking around in the heat. So to balance my happiness, I find myself listening to one of the most pessimistic guys of rock: Don Henley. I like Don.

There were things to do like the veggie run and the bank. I like getting this stuff done…but there was also laundry to do before I could do the veggie run.

I tell you all of this because the man did something wonderful for me. He can be sneaky in phases because my sight just isn’t good enough to see what is going on in my tiny room that I use as an office. I didn’t see the first phase at all.

My office is filled with very “Gail” type things, two of which are parasols that are mounted into the corners of the ceiling. Once they were up I thought “wouldn’t it be cool to backlight them.” I haven’t thought about it for some time. He has.

While I was out and about he got to work and gave me a very beautiful surprise to come home to. Yup, he backlit my parasols!!! So, even though it is hot out there and in here I’ve got the tiny lights on…I couldn’t resist as it is so pretty to have the soft light around me.

Being nice pays off not because it has to: it just does. There is something about generosity that is contagious. So, when I’m out and about, I smile and others say hello to me. Why?

I think that is because we, as humans, crave positivity in ways that will never be fully understood. I, for one, have no desire to study this as it takes some of the magic out of the process. I will studiously avoid the research on the topic. Some things are better enjoyed and left alone.

I think I’ll go find someplace cool to enjoy the evening. I also must switch to something other than Don Henley. Before I do…remember to smile and see what you get in return.